Malaysia Court Releases American Evangelists From Detention

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (BosNewsLife)-- A Malaysian court has freed two United States citizens detained for ten days for allegedly distributing Christian pamphlets to Muslims, police and American officials told reporters Tuesday, May 10.

The two men, identified as Ricky Ruperd in his 30s, and Zachry Harris, in his 20s, were reportedly arrested on April 25 at Malaysia's new administrative capital Putrajaya, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur.

A local court ordered them to be held for 14 days to assist in investigations, but they were released Wednesday, May 4, a police official told the French News Agency (AFP).


In addittion "all the accusations were withdrawn and the two were released," AsiaNews, a Catholic oriented news website, qouted a a spokesperson for the US Embassy as saying. It is seen as a crime by officials in predominantly-Islamic Malaysia to try to convert Muslims to other religions, church watchers and analysts say.

The detentions came amid concern among human rights groups about pressure on Malaysian Christians. The Christian community has already been suffering because of attacks against churches, "with a number of incidents of burning and bombing cited since [the] September 11, 2001" terrorist attacks against the United States, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) recently.

"Other faiths [than Muslim] are increasingly discriminated against at state level following the rise of Islamism in Malaysia," added CSW in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife. "Legal restrictions exist prohibiting propagation of other faiths among the Muslim community whereas Muslim missionaries receive state support to spread Islam."


Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was qouted as saying last month that Bibles published in the Malay language were not banned but must be stamped with the words "Not for Muslims". He was reportedly responding to questions, after a minister told parliament the government did not allow editions of the Bible published in Malay to be distributed “as it could be construed as an effort to spread Christianity among Muslim-Malays.”

Evangelical Christians active in the region argue that the Bible, which they see as "Gods' Word", is for everyone, including Muslims. They claim that everyone has the right to learn about the "Good News" of the Bible that God’s only begotten son, Jesus Christ, died for the sins of all mankind, "so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

An estimated 60 percent of Malaysia's population are Muslims, while there are large ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities who practice other religions including Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. (With BosNewsLife Research, reports from Malaysia and Stefan J. Bos)